“He used to say that he never felt the hardness of the human struggle or the sadness of history as he felt it among those ruins. He used to say, too, that it made one feel an obligation to do one’s best.” —Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
On a recent visit with my wife Carol to Montauk, LI to experience the last days of the fall season, I was reminded of just how beautiful this place really is. And as a special treat we were greeted with “breeze’n up” weather—great for photographing. As we approached one of the most photographed and historic lighthouses in the country, I was affected by how the surrounding reeds interacted with the lighthouse. The wind was blowing hard, with gusts of up to 50 mph, yet the reeds showed their strength & grace. They held their own, even as they swayed while the lighthouse stood firmly in the distance, somewhat blurred by the reeds. I wanted to capture not only the motion of the reeds, but also their individuality as they moved, because I felt this would highlight their graceful strength in relation to the stolid lighthouse.
I am stirred by this critically important essay, by Eli Siegel, “Art as Flexibility.” As he writes you get a new insight into how crucial this aspect of art is. It begins:
“Art shows reality as resisting, bending; asserting, fading—which is how it is. Reality is as it changes, and ﬂexibility in art is a visual likelihood of a thing’s changing in space, while remaining what it is. As a stem of a ﬂower sways in the wind, we have a sight of ﬂexibility. Yieldingness as sight is much in pictures; the yieldingness that makes for strength is what we look for in art.”
Copyright © by Definition Press 1960, 1962, 1974
Your creative imagination will be inspired after reading this work. If you would like to see more of my photos of Montauk visit my web-site: harveyspears.com
New York State is a very special place for me to take in the magnificence of this time of year. Here along the Esopus Creek in Phoenicia, I was swept by the beauty, drama and mystery that was all around. To see more of my visual journey click here.
Here too is a poem I care for by Eli Siegel that expresses a deep reverence and excitement about autumn that I believe can add to the large emotion people have in this beautiful season.
While people lined the shores of the East River & New York Harbor at sunset the grand celebration was preparing to begin. And it was done with style! As the sun set, the darkened sky and the Brooklyn Bridge were aglow. New York & The Brooklyn Bridge welcome back the Macy’s grand fireworks celebration, and I’m so glad I was there. (Click photos to enlarge.)
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It was one of those rare Summer days in NYC when the weather couldn’t get any better, and it was perfect for the Liberty Challenge, hosted by NY Outrigger. From the Hudson to the East River, where I was stationed, back to the Hudson, people came out to watch this event, on sailboats, tour ships, and all along the shores. (Click photos to enlarge.) As I was watching the ever-changing panorama before me, I couldn’t help remembering another famous chase that took place right here in these same waters not long after the Island went from the Dutch to the English. It is written with all the nautical drama that one could hope for by the noted NY writer, James Fenimore Cooper, in his novel published in 1830, The Water Witch or The Skimmer of the Seas. While the 2 ships that Cooper writes of are quite different than the craft in the Liberty Challenge, the emotion that both made for in people had a lot in common. I’m grateful to have learned from Eli Siegel that Cooper was one of America’s greatest writers, and one
“…of the thirty or so great writers of the world of all time… One of the words for Cooper in the history of the art of literature, is indispensable … he is on the side of those matters which it is still permissible to call creation and beauty.” (TRO, #740).
Whenever beauty occurs, I learned from Aesthetic Realism, opposites are made one, the same opposites that we are trying to see better in ourselves. It’s in this principle of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other; each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”
I believe the Liberty Challenge event had beauty in it. I was affected by how the crews of one craft after another maneuvered their way along a course that has fast and dangerous currents with great motion & energy, while also showing ease as they seemed to pause or rest to avoid many other craft like tour boats and barges that were all about. I was both thrilled and composed as I looked on with excitement. As Cooper writes about the pursuit of one ship trying to overtake another, words that have stirred people for nearly 184 years, we too are affected by how the opposites of energy & rest are so much of one another—many oars acting as one.
“We must pull for our own safety, and that of the brigantine, my men;” said the Skimmer, springing into his boat and seizing the tiller—”A quick stroke, and a strong!–here is no time for holiday feathering, or your man-of-war jerk! Give way, boys; give way, with a will, and together!”
These were sounds that had often saluted the ears of men engaged in the hazardous pursuit of his crew. The oars fell into the water at the same moment, and, quick as thought, the light bark was in the strength of the current. (Chapter XXVIII)
Both the Liberty Challenge and the work of James Fenimore Cooper enabled me to see more meaning and have more feeling about the world on a beautiful summer day.
You may not think that in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world, NYC, you’d find one of the oldest continuous working farms in the country, dating back to before the American Revolution. But in Queens, NY, that’s where you’ll find the Queens County Farm. It’s one of the most delightful places to visit in NYC. You will not find the Big Horn Sheep of Montana, or the Grizzly of Alaska, or even the wild Moose of Maine, however you will be treated to the expressions of children and even adults as as they look with wonder and pleasure at domestic farm animals, some perhaps for the first time. However familiar we are with these animals, they can also appear ever so strange.
In photographing some of the animals I was reminded of this maxim by Eli Siegel from his book “Damned Welcome,”
The strange really has a smile on its face; you should welcome it with open arms.
For a while it will feel that you are on a rural upstate NY farm (without the fields & mountains) having a great time being affected by a taste of farm life & history. So if you are in the NYC area,you will not have to travel far to see these wonderful beings. (Click on photos to enlarge.) To see more photos visit my web-site.